HTC has carved out a niche for itself as a maker of Windows Mobile handhelds, although it has also embraced Google's Android platform, first with the T-Mobile-exclusive G1 and more recently with the Vodafone-exclusive Magic.
The HTC Touch Pro 2 is one of two flagship models announced in February, the other being the Touch Diamond 2. Our review sample came from Clove Technology, which sells a SIM-free Touch Pro 2 for £439 (ex. VAT).
The HTC Touch Pro 2's physical design is reminiscent of an old favourite of ours, the TyTN II. For although it's not immediately apparent from the front, the Touch Pro 2's screen slides out to reveal a QWERTY keyboard.
HTC's Touch Pro 2 is 116mm tall, 59.2mm wide and 16.65mm thick and weighs 178g. It runs Windows Mobile 6.1 and costs £439 (ex. VAT, from Clove Technology).
A hardware keyboard is not that unusual, but the feature we really like is that when the keyboard is revealed, the screen section can be tilted to an angle of 50 degrees. This makes it easy to view the screen when the Touch Pro 2 is sitting on a desk. For many users, this will be the major attraction.
The Touch Pro 2's tilting screen design is reminiscent of the earlier (and well-received) HTC TyTN II.
The keyboard itself is superb, with keys that are separated from each other and raised a considerable height from the base. The keys depress with a slight click and feel very solid under the fingers. Typing with two thumbs with the Touch Pro 2 held in both hands is as fast and easy as you can expect from a device of this size. There's a separate row of number keys at the top, plus useful shortcut keys such to messaging, SMS creation, Comms Manager and the web browser.
If the hardware keyboard is not to your liking, there's a relatively large on-screen keyboard. This is easier to use accurately with the screen in landscape format. A built-in accelerometer causes the screen to rotate automatically as you turn the device in your hand, although it doesn't seem to work in all applications — it didn't like Word Mobile, for example, but worked fine in the web brower.
The TFT screen measures 3.6in. across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 480 by 800 pixels. It really comes into its own for tasks like web browsing and reading lengthy texts, and is impressively sharp and bright. Sitting along the bottom short edge of the screen is a small bar along which you can run a finger for zooming. This doesn't function in all applications, but does work, for example, when you're browsing the web, reading text and viewing photos.
The keyboard and screen, plus the use of some high-quality build materials, all make the HTC Touch Pro 2 a relatively large and heavy device: it measures 116mm tall, 59.2mm wide and 16.65mm thick and weighs 178.5g.
Beneath the screen and butted up to the bottom edge of the casing are the usual four shortcut buttons: Call and End keys sit on the outer edge (the latter doubling up as a Home key), while between them a large rocker offers back and Start button functionality.
Elsewhere, there's a small on/off switch on the top edge, a volume rocker on the left and a mini-USB connector on the bottom. The provided USB headset is a basic, one-piece, in-ear set: you'll need an adapter to use a 3.5mm headset. The mini-USB connector can also be used for TV-out, but the required cable is an optional extra.
The HTC Touch Pro 2 ships with an AC adapter, a USB PC cable, a spare stylus, a screen protector, a protective case, a printed quick-start guide and two CDs containing the full user manual and software.
The HTC Touch Pro 2 is a quad-band GSM device with GPRS, EDGE and HSPA support with upload speeds of up to 2Mbps and downloads up to 7.2Mbps. There's an integrated GPS receiver and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth (2.1+EDR and A2DP) are both built in. The processor is a Qualcomm MSM7200A running at 528MHz. There is 512MB of ROM and 288MB of RAM. On first booting the device, our review sample had 252MB of free storage. A slot for a microSD card sits on the left edge of the casing, underneath the backplate.
The Touch Pro 2 incorporates a feature called Straight Talk. If you flip the device on its front during a call, it automatically reconfigures as a speakerphone system for conference calling. Conference calling is enhanced with thumbnail images of selected participants (if you have configured these on the handset), which you tap to invite them to join a call.
The back of the device carries an unremarkable 3.2-megapixel camera that lacks both a flash and a self-portrait mirror. If you're into two-way video calls, there's a second VGA-resolution camera on the front.
HTC's TouchFLO 3D interface has been enhanced for the Touch Pro 2, extending the ability to navigate the device without resorting to the stylus and hiding the Windows Mobile interface as much as possible.
There are shortcuts to many applications via a scrolling menu that sits on the bottom of the screen. This provides easy access to things like contacts, messaging, the internet, photos, music and the calendar.
When you hit the Start button, a grid of 12 application shortcut icons appears, and you can finger-scroll to see more. Although many of the first dozen are preconfigured, you can remove any you don't need and replace them with your favourites. Tapping a softkey takes you to the listing of all programs, presented in a vertically scrolling bar. You never need to see the Windows Mobile applications listing.
The Touch Pro 2 (like the Touch Diamond 2) also provides a unified view for every contact. Essentially this unites voice, text and email communications in one place.
There is also what HTC is calling a Push Internet facility. It sounds promising in that you can preselect web pages which are automatically downloaded into the device for immediate access as required. But we've seen it before, and frankly it's underwhelming.
The Touch Pro 2 has both Internet Explorer and Opera Mobile, but the Push Internet feature is only available with the latter. You can't set it from within Opera, though: instead, you access it from the Internet option on the rolling bar of icons at the bottom of the screen. From here you can select a bookmark to add and set the frequency of automatic updating. Disappointingly, you can only nominate four such pages.
HTC adds several applications and shortcuts to the standard Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional bundle. These include the Adobe PDF reader, Google Maps, JetCet Presentation (for creating, editing and viewing PowerPoint presentations), an RSS reader, YouTube link, WorldCard Mobile (which uses the device's camera to scan business cards into the contacts application) and a game called Teeter. The latter shows off the accelerometer, requiring you to guide a ball through a maze by tilting the device in your hand.
Performance & battery life
The touch-screen is extremely responsive, and finger scrolling works well. Even in the web browser calibration was good: the difference between tapping a link to select it and accidentally touching one at the start of a finger-pan around a page is handled well, and we experienced few accidental taps. Finger panning around full-page views is excellent on the large, high-resolution screen.
The 528MHz processor coped easily with multiple open applications.
Battery life was a little disappointing. HTC says you will get up to 8.5 hours of talk and 500 hours' standby on GSM. Our usual battery rundown test plays music continuously from a full battery charge with the screen always on: under these conditions, the Touch Pro 2 lasted for 6.25 hours.
If you're a heavy user of HSPA, GPS, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi you may find the battery running low towards the end of a typical day.
The Touch Pro 2 is, in our view, HTC's best smartphone yet. Its 'must-have' feature is the tilting screen, which makes it very easy to view content when the device is sitting on a desk. The QWERTY keyboard is well implemented and the touch interface seems more responsive than before. The high-resolution screen is also superb. Our only real concern is battery life.